Production I.G is a Japanese anime studio and production enterprise, which was founded on December 15, 1987. The letters I and G actually derive from the names of the company founders Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and popular character designer Takayuki Goto. They’ve created some of our favorite anime of all time and thought it might be fun to recap their 10 greatest hits, from old classics to new blockbusters. Let’s start with the number 10 joint:
Reportedly a fan of Ghost in the Shell and Blood: The Last Vampire, movie maker Quentin Tarantino personally asked Production I.G to produce the animation sequence included in his world-hit Kill Bill. An unsympathetic studio might have trimmed the extended anime sequence about O’Ren-Ishii’s troubled childhood, for example, although this is an intense treat depicting events almost too agonizing and heartbreaking to witness in live action.
Patlabor 2 is definitely a labor of love and carries a sort of Tom Clancy feel to this anime genre. Never before have I seen such an elaborate story of lies, revenge and politcal espianoge pulled of so well. It has a fairly complex and realistic plotline involving political standoffs and military coups. Three years after the events of Patlabor: Mobile Police, trouble once again rises in Tokyo. An angry soldier has returned from his failed UN mission with only one aim in mind- to teach the citizens of Japan a lesson. His campaign of terrorism throws the authorities into confusion, setting the government, the military, and the police at each others’ throats. With more philosphical undertones than the first, this one has to take the cake when it comes to delivering a message. It clearly shows how vulnerable we are, yet how we as a society have done many immoral things.
The show itself takes its visual style from old Shonen anime and manga from the 80’s, with high school gangs fighting for turf and respect. Everyone looks older and more mature than they really are, and there are more than a few instances that you’ll be reminded that all of the characters are supposedly 16 year-olds. It takes repeated potshots at the very pillars of time-honored anime stylings, such as using limited frames of animation for movement or very static backgrounds with an explosion-of-light-like effect to punctuate a character’s serious sounding line. After those pillars give, the mighty structure crumbles into rubble, leaving only dust and rocks. Most parody series would build it back up in it’s own whacked-out image, but Cromartie just pees all over the remains, laughing all the while. And you’ll be laughing right along with them, guaranteed.
I am such a big fan of samurai and this documentary was just enlightening and full of Japanese and western history. Miyamoto Musashi was a fabled warrior that lived in Japan at the beginning of the 17th Century. After making a name for himself at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, he established himself as a master duellist, one that was never defeated. Musashi: The Dream of the Last Samurai is a chance to give the audience some factual history, in perhaps an old-school lesson form. In short, there is no story as such just cold hard fact and that’s not very exciting. Some films fail in such a strange way, that a new quality arises in them. It really is hard to pinpoint the negatives. Anyway, at best it’s just a little footnote on the great Samurai movies of the past.
Both Production I.G. and director Hiroyuki Okiura wanted to expand their horizons past adult-oriented animation, and wanted to do something more charming, and family friendly. Momo is the result of that. The subject of loss is difficult to convey on film, yet alone in an animated one and perhaps this isn’t just a good film, but maybe essential viewing to the nerdy adolescence? The only hinderance I can see is the extremely long running time. A Letter to Momo had reportedly taken the director Okiura seven years to produce. Momo ponders an unfinished letter left in her father’s drawer. It deals with heavy issues. She also has to deal with new living quarters after her mom decides to move them both back to her childhood home on the island. Animation is executed flawlessly as her adolescent awkwardness is honestly and masterfully portrayed by the animators.
Of course, xxxHOLiC is a popular series that follows Kimihiro Watanuki who is more than a normal high school student because he possess the ability to see spirits. One day, he wonders into a shop own by a mysterious Yuuko who grants people’s deepest wishes and desires. She can free him of his “ability”. However, she demands a price in return – he must work for her. This film is very different from a lot of anime films I watch on a regular basis. This can either be interpreted as good or bad. Nothing is what it seems, and little is explained along the way. It carries itself really mature as it has an overall darker, more gothic feel to it. What really makes this anime tick is its ability to draw in the audience and carry them through an unusual, almost frightening, spiral of events. The combination of comedy, horror, and mystery strike a perfect tone with me.
What starts out as a fairly conventional storyline gradually unravels, revealing a vastly more complex and intricate narrative tapestry. Its deliberate pacing may be misconstrued by some as being “slow”, but as the story progresses, all the puzzle pieces that are uncovered early on start to fall into place, and things that once seemed insignificant or nonsensical begin to make sense. To make a long story short, Blood+ is one of only a handful of shows that transcends the boundaries of its genre, and one of the best amines I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. In fact, it practically single-handedly revived my passion for anime and spurred me on to seek many other great shows, which I probably would not have bothered to watch otherwise. And that is probably the greatest compliment one can pay to any medium of entertainment.
Many days pass and in the midst of a police interview relay concerning suspicions behind interceptors, a forewarning is received from “The Laughing Man” of his next crime. The film really starts to pick up when the incorporeal hacker begins to move once again. There’s political drama, gun-fights, fist-fights, sexy cyborgs, and awesome music by Yoko Kanno as well. I like this one in particular because it has twists and turns that make it more interesting for anyone who stays glued to every detail of the story. For instance if you follow the trail of events you will then figure out early on that the scenarios make them a target of a false campaign of propaganda and violent retribution.
Taking the story of Little Red Riding Hood as the basis for this production, Jin-Roh manages to incorporates romance, violence, tragedy and loss, to weave an intricate tale about the loss of innocence. Normally I prefer anime films that are chock full of action, but there is something personal about Jin-Roh that I find appealing, and the film has held up well in repeat viewings over the years. Let it be known, however, that Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade is not a kids’ cartoon. The lengthy narration that starts ”Jin-Roh” has a lot to explain, because its alternative universe is quite detailed. While American studios continue to crank out silly animated feature films meant for five year olds… Japan offers the world this mind bending work of great philosophical, political, and artistic sophistication. All in all, Jin-Roh is a great anime movie that strains toward a grown-up emotional depth that most films starring grown-ups reject.
Much like the NGE series, the End of Evangelion (EoE) weaves a complex story where images and dialogue are closely related to the philosophy and symbolism. These themes are played out through the psychology of each characters’ own mind. It is essentially a microcosm of the entire series. The opening scenes before the “Air” title card of Ep. 25 of Shinji overlooking the ruins of the city, and then entering Asuka’s hospital room and, (I’ll leave it there) set the mood and atmosphere. Showing effectively and very disturbingly that this is NOT going to be an easy film. As the first half roars out of the gates at breakneck speed, we see the hostile takeover of Nerv by the Seele organization and each Nerv member’s desperate attempt to hold it at bay. This film is simply a divine marvel. Much like the series it has to be watched multiple times for one to uncover all of its hidden layers and meanings. But it doesn’t lose its ability to invoke emotions and thoughts even after several viewings. There are scenes of immense power and drama in the film – many that match the best of most films I’ve seen. But I think it’s the quiet moments that make this film so moving and memorable. However, taken as a film, and the conclusion to the NGE series, End of Evangelion is a staggering achievement and powerful last testament to what is, in my opinion, the greatest visual series of all time.